WAREHOUSE 13: Brent Spiner and EP Jack Kenny Interview re Season 4 (2012)

"Warehouse 13"
“Warehouse 13”

In the Syfy dramedy series WAREHOUSE 13, the golden rule seems to be “anything goes.” The show does not conform to strict drama guidelines and there is plenty of comedy and outrageous antics lacing its darker stories. This season, they decided to go darker than they have ever dared before and are treading the line very carefully in order to introduce a special new villain, Brother Adrian, deliciously portrayed by Brent Spiner. In a recent press call, executive producer Jack Kenny and Brent Spiner provided some humorous and candid responses to what to expect from Brother Adrian and the 4th season of WAREHOUSE 13.

Brent, what it was like for uniting on screen with Saul and apparently swapping the good guy/bad guy roles that you guy had in the STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION?
BRENT: Well, there was nothing apparent about, you’re going to have to wait and see what that’s all about really. But it was like “swimming in a rainbow” to work with Saul again. Don’t you love that, Jack?
JACK: I do, I do. I feel that every day.
BRENT: Yes, don’t you. No actually Saul is an amazing actor, he’s an amazing talent, and it was just fantastic to be back on stage with him. We have a history that goes beyond even STAR TREK, we did a play together in 1978 at the New York Shakespeare Festival. So Saul and I have quite a history of working – yes, we were ten. Well I think Saul was 11, because he is older than me.
JACK: You would say that. And it’s fun watching them work because after a while it became a “war of pauses.” They would each say their line with so much intensity that the next one had to beat it.

Brother Adrian seems a bit dark and serious. Are we still going to get some of that Brent humor mixed in to the role?
BRENT: Well I don’t know, Jack do we?
JACK: Yes, I think that it’s interesting, you get a different version of Brent Spiner humor. Because he spends the entire season basically torturing and toying with Saul. So it’s an evil humor that comes through I think in a lot of ways.
BRENT: It’s the real Brent. Exactly, it’s the real Brent Spiner humor.
JACK: Yes.
BRENT: It’s the evil Brent Spiner humor.
JACK: It’s a really fun ride I’ll tell you, their relationship is not like anything you’re going to expect.

Jack, how did the storyline with Brent come about? And Brent, how did you come to the role?
JACK: The storyline about Brother Adrian, well we always like to have a big bad in each season, and we kind of like to play with what that big bad is and what’s underneath. Even with someone like MacPherson or Sykes, it’s never black and white, “He’s just an evil guy,” there’s always a reasonable thing going on underneath, there’s a reasonable desire. It’s a grey area. Everybody has their reasons for doing what they’re doing, and Brother Adrian has his reasons for going after Artie as you’ll see in the next episode. It was really about giving Artie an arc for the season, and about giving a nemesis. I went to Saul because I knew he’d being every scene with Brother Adrian all year. And I said, “So you’re friends with Brent, right?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “What would you think about for Brother Adrian?” And Saul was ecstatic. He said, “Oh my god, that would be my dream come true.”
BRENT: And his dream did come true. And here I am. And to answer your question, from my point, Jack and Saul called me and said, “Let’s have lunch,” and I did. And they said, “Would you be interested in doing this?” And ultimately I said, “Yes, I would be very interested in doing this.” So I jumped on board and had a really amazing time in Toronto.
JACK: I remember that lunch, I remember us at the commissary at NBC Universal and my meeting you for the first time, and of course I had to pile him with accolades because he’s just like that. I knew it had to be. I saw Brent do “1776” on Broadway, and in a weird way he’s more present in my mind as John Adams than Commander Data. And so it was a different approach from my point of view to having Brent play the part, because I knew everybody else knows him as a robot and I know him as the founder of our country. So we approached that from a different viewpoint, and Brother Adrian is human, at least in certain ways, in certain ways maybe not. But he’s a very powerful character too, and that’s the other thing that Brent brings to the table is a sense of power without having to twirl a mustache or flex a muscle he just has a presence. And that was what was so important for Brother Adrian is that there has to be almost a serene powerful presence that you understand when you see this guy, do what he says or you will be unhappy. And that’s very important for the relationship that we build throughout the season between Artie and Adrian.

Brent, what did you enjoy most about the role?
BRENT: You know honestly what I enjoyed most is working with this company, it was just a great bunch of people from the top down, and the top being Jack. See you kiss me, I kiss you. But seriously, and it was the opportunity to work with Saul again. And the experience, I went back and forth to Toronto six times from Los Angeles, and each time I looked forward to going because I knew I was going to have a pleasant experience.

Brent, what did you find most challenge acting-wise on WAREHOUSE 13, was there anything?
BRENT: Well, it really is sort of general because you never know if you’re going to be able to land to the part. Acting is ephemeral, you never know whether you’re going to be able to stick the landing. And so the talent is to always just to be as good as the material. And this case the material was good, so you know that was my task.
JACK: Brent, I know we have you in this cassock for the whole time and it’s not something that most people are used to wearing and you had to do a lot in it.

Did you feel like the cassock got in your way at all?
BRENT: You know what, it really didn’t. And you’re right, I did initially think, “Oh my gosh is this going to be inhibiting in some way?” And it really isn’t, it kind of informed a lot of things and in the right way. And sometimes the externals will do that.

Do you have a favorite scene, for both of you, that you can talk about without spoiling things that you are looking forward to the fans to see?
BRENT: Almost anything we could say at this point beyond what you’ve seen will spoil something.
JACK: I can say there’s a scene in Episode 9 that is one of my favorites. And I also like the scene coming up in this week’s episode. Because as you know, Artie turned back time 24 hours so everything is back to the way it was. So we know that Brother Adrian is going to be seen again. I love the first return. I love the first time we see Brother Adrian again, I think it’s so interesting the dynamics that go on are so interesting and unique between them, I love that.
BRENT: The most complicated thing about playing Brother Adrian for me was figuring out who he was. I never quite knew who he was until the episode after the one we were shooting would come out. When we were working on Episode 2, or my Episode 2, I sort of had an idea about how to play him until Episode 3 arrived. And I read that and I thought, “Oh my gosh, no, no, no, I was all wrong, let me go back.” It’s a very tricky and complicated role.

How does this role differ from the others you’ve played in the past?
BRENT: Well it was the first monk I’ve ever played. I’ve never played a man of the cloth that I can remember. Every role is different from the one you’ve played before hopefully. This is nothing like playing an android for example.

Brent, what do you think it is about WAREHOUSE 13 that really has captured so many viewers?
BRENT: Well I think Jack said it, it’s me. No I’m kidding, it’s not.
JACK: I think one of the reason we attract a broad audience is that we do action-adventure-comedy. I call it a thrilleromedy, because it’s got drama, comedy, runs and chases and it’s just a fun ride. And I think people like fun rides. It’s why the Back to the Future, Star Wars, Indiana Jones franchises have all done so well, because they’re just fun rides. And in addition to that, I think we all create characters that care about each other and so that you care about them. It’s a family – at the end of the day — I’ve said this many times — WAREHOUSE 13 is a family show. Almost every relationship in it familial. Even the Brother Adrian-Artie relationship is very, very much like two brothers, which is one of the great advantages of having Brent play it, because Saul and Brent act very much like two brothers. And they have that inherent chemistry going on, so you turn a camera on them and it just comes through. And it leads very well into the familial nature of our show.
BRENT: I think it’s just a darn good show period. Jack writes a really wonderful show and it’s entertaining and it’s smart. And that’s a real change of pace.

Jack, what is the weirdest item that you thought of, but have not used on the show?
JACK: There’s always something interesting there. We don’t usually approach from an artifact first, we usually approach it from a story line, an emotional story line, what’s going on with somebody that they would use something. And then we back up into what they use and what the problems of that is. We knew we wanted to turn back time 24 hours and the first thing that occurred to me was the 24 hour date line and how that sort of a magical thing that suddenly you jump 24 hours when you cross the International Data Line kind of thing that time in a weird way changes. And then my first thought was we’d use Magellan’s sextant, and then did more research and found out, “Well they didn’t have sextants then, they used astrolabes.” So we had to get into that. I find the research into all these things incredibly exciting and unique. And another artifact, which I think a dicey one to use, but which I think would be interesting is Hitler’s microphone. A microphone that was just imbued with all the hatred of that man and hey, it falls into the hands of a radio shock jock.

Jack, what artifacts will be seeing this year?
JACK: There’s an artifact that belonged to Lovecraft that’s coming. As we teased at the end of last season and at the end of the last episode you’ll be seeing Maelzel’s metronome again. There’s an artifact that creates tornados. Bobby Fischer’s marbles show up, I think they left Bobby Fischer a while back, but then we find them. We see Scott Joplin’s cigarette case. As you remember last season Sykes had a bunch artifacts in that airplane hangar and our gang has to go an retrieve them all, so there’s a whole bunch of artifacts there that have to be collected. We will be hearing again from Lewis Carroll’s mirror that shows up again. We’ve done some interesting things with artifacts too. In one episode there’s an artifact that’s actually inside of someone that has to be dealt with and neutralized. So that’s unique for us. And we’ll also see the birth of an artifact in an upcoming episode. We’ll learn how an artifact is born, and you saw the football in Episode 1 how it keeps tracks of artifacts and that it keeps track of artifacts that we know about, that are birthed, and whether or not we have to collect them. So we do open up the mythology quite a bit with artifacts this year and learn more about how they’re made and how they’re done. And we learn a little bit more about Mrs. Frederic, who she is, how she exists and what her life has been like.

Given the foreshadowing with a sort of darkness to it, will the show be picking up more fun aspects throughout the season?
JACK: We’ll never drop the fun from this show, there will always be, even in the darkest episodes, a notion of comedy, because I think that’s when comedy is most useful and I think that’s when people can relate to it. And that’s when these characters specifically are great at finding a moment. And it’s not like they’re making a joke, they are just trying to deal with the darkness themselves and an awful lot of people deal with darkness by making jokes. I do, whenever I’m intensely sad, I will very quickly try to move to a humor place to take myself out of it. So we’ll always have that and we do have it all year. All season we deal with it. And we get into some dark stuff this season, there’s some heavy duty stuff. As we said, “Artie has created evil that he’ll have to live with the rest of his days,” and we take that seriously. We want that to have real consequences this year, because there has to be real consequences in this world otherwise the stakes will never be high enough, there will never be any real danger. You’ll always think, “Oh they’ll get out of it by blah-blah.” So there has to be consequences for what happens, but at the same time people have to be able to move on, they have to be able to heal themselves and move forward. And the best way for anybody to heal themselves is with humor and with laughter and with making somebody smile. And so I mean that’s sort of Pete’s Raison d’Être, he will always will make a joke, always, even when his life is hanging in the balance, he’ll always be able to make a joke. He makes several in the premier. Just trying to get through it, that’s his mechanism for getting through. I think Pete sort of leads the charge in, “I can get through life as long as I can make myself laugh or make others laugh.” That’s how Pete gets through things. So yes, it will always be a weapon in our arsenal. And that’s the way I look at comedy and jokes, as a weapon in the arsenal to combat life’s downers. It will continue providing joy and laughter. But like I say, “There has to be a reality to the life and to the world, and I think if we just did artifact romps every week that I think even those fans would get tired of that and say, “Well can there be some substance to it as well more than just a romp?” And we still do plenty of romps, there’s plenty of romping to be had between now and the end of this first set of ten. But at the same time I also want it to land a little bit and these characters they have to keep moving and growing and going through things as human beings. So in order for us to continue to want them to succeed and to root for them to succeed they have to go through tribulations in order for us to root for them.

Jack, could you talk about how this year’s extended 20 episode season changed how you plan out the season and how Brent’s episodes will be laid out throughout the season?
JACK: I’ve never done this many hour-long in a row and let me be the first to say, “I don’t recommend it.” It’s almost killing me. Because it’s just a lot of episodes to keep in your head. But it’s sort of two seasons. The first ten really follow an arc unto themselves and as we usually do, end with a major cliffhanger and major emotional turmoil. Thing that happens at the end of Episode 10 that we then pick up in the following season, Episode 11 and continue. And then that arc takes a different turn and we have to solve that problem that we’ve created in these first ten. And every season we create a problem and at the end of the season that has to be solved and then overcome in the following season, another problem. So it’s really two seasons, it doesn’t really connect, but on the other hand, we had to basically break out two full arcs for our characters to go through. And yet they were connected. So it’s been a challenge in that it’s just a tremendous amount of work. I’m blessed with a brilliant writing staff that is constantly churning out new ideas and new ways to approach things, and just pumping out great stuff. we had a 14 week prep period before we even started shooting where the writers just sat in the room for 14 weeks breaking out the arcs, breaking out the stories, figuring out where it all went. When we started shooting in February we had eight scripts written, essentially, the whole first season. And then we just had to wrap it up. And we’re kind of at that same place now before we start our back eight episodes coming up. We’ve got all but the last two in some sort of script form. So it’s really just a question of a lot of work and really putting in the time and the effort. I’m hoping to go back to 13 someday.

Will Brent be spread across both of those ten episode arcs or is he done in that first half?
JACK: Essentially the Brother Adrian character wraps up in the first ten episodes. I will not rule out bringing Brent back again because I absolutely just love working with him. So if I have my druthers, we’ll see Brother Adrian once again.

With those prophetic words ringing in our ears, we can only hold our breath and see exactly how dark and mysterious the path of Brother Adrian takes this season on WAREHOUSE 13; and to not miss one second of it be sure to tune in for an all new episode of WAREHOUSE 13 on Monday, July 30th at 9:00 p.m. on Syfy.

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